Night Photography Post Processing With Alister Benn

D3x - 14-24/2.8 This is 2 images blended manually about an hour after sunset.

Nikon D3x - Nikkor 14-24/F2.8 - This shot is based on 2 images blended manually about an hour after sunset.

Alister Benn, a master of night photography, uses a variety of techniques, gear, and innovation to create beautiful images. He is well known for his blending techniques as well as his incredible use of color in his images. In the following post, Benn shares his post-processing techniques.

Night Photography Post Processing Software and Editing Technique

Once Benn has captured an extensive amount of images, he is ready to post-process them as the final step in producing his art. He recommends using either Lightroom 3 or Photoshop CS5 to do this.

He tries to treat his images as individuals and recommends doing this so as to not trap yourself into a standardized work flow. Of beginning the editing process, he says,

“I don’t have a one-click 5 minute fix. This year I forced myself to slow down and start to really look at my images in a more critical and analytical way. Treating them as individuals, rather than being on an assembly line”.

Blending Software for Night Photography

According to Benn, the basis of any blending procedure, whether, at night, twilight or during the day is the same.

“You take multiple exposures of the scene and combine them to create a rendition of the scene that satisfies your creative interpretation of the original experience”.

Nikon D3x 14-24/2.8 90 images x 30s big moon, near full. One or two frames before full dark.

Nikon D3x, Nikkor 14-24/2.8 -- 90 images @ 30 seconds, Big moon, near full. One or two frames before full dark.

He uses Software like Photomatix, LR Enfuse or Nik HDR Soft. These are great tools, he says, but feels that the best way to make sure images are manually blended well is through Photoshop.

Blending Technique for Night Photographers

Blending is a complex task and sometimes a simple Gradient on a Mask between two layers will be adequate, like a digital Graduated Neutral Density Filter, but often, more complex masks are required.

Nikon D3x 14-24/2.8 37 x 3 minute exposures, plus 2 images after sunset and before darkness. Minimal light painting. 5 hours in the cave. nearly full moon.

Nikon D3x 14-24/2.8 37 x 3 minute exposures, plus 2 images after sunset and before darkness. Minimal light painting. 5 hours in the cave. nearly full moon.

Benn recommends researching Tony Kuyper, a photographer that helped develop a series of techniques to use Luminosity Masks to blend images as well as his friend Sean Bagshaw who is also a proponent of these techniques and has an excellent series of video tutorials available. Information on Tony and Sean can be found at the websites below.

Tony:
http://goodlight.us/writing/tutorials.html

Sean:
http://www.outdoorexposurephoto.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=15&Itemid=59

Benn will be developing his own series of processing educational material this winter for the release of The Complete Guide to Landscape Photography at Night, which he will be releasing in 2012.

“When it comes to manually blending images, it boils down to the amount of time you are prepared to invest in an image.”

For a more detailed description of Benn’s post-processing technique, be sure to download his eBook at availablelightimages.com and keep an eye out for his next eBook to be published in 2012.

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